Category Archives: Technical/Site Issues

My Hosting Frustrations

frustration photo
Photo by e-magic

If you have tried to visit this site or any of the other sites I run over the last few days, you may have come across a notice from my host that my site was suspended. I received an email from Bluehost with the following information:

Dear Dana:

Your web hosting account for has been deactivated, as of 08/09/2016. (reason: site causing performance problems)

This deactivation was due to a Terms of Service violation associated with your account. At sign-up, all users state that they have read through, understand, and agree to our terms. These terms are legal and binding.

Please contact our Terms of Service team immediately to resolve the violation; your account will remain deactivated until you contact us and the issue is resolved.

Contact us if you feel the deactivation was a mistake. You must contact us to regain access to your account. Please call and speak with our Terms of Service Compliance department as soon as possible at 888-401-4678 (ext. 3).
Please read the following, derived from our Terms of Service agreement, for additional information regarding the matter.

Engaging in any activity that, in Bluehost’s sole and absolute discretion, disrupts, interferes with, or is harmful to (or threatens to disrupt, interfere with, or be harmful to) Bluehost’s services, Bluehost’s business, operations, reputation, goodwill, subscribers and/or subscriber relations, or the ability of Bluehost’s subscribers to effectively use Bluehost’s services is prohibited.

Please review the current copy of our Terms of Service here:

Thank you,
Bluehost Technical Support
For support go to

I called Bluehost, and they couldn’t tell me why all of a sudden my site was causing performance problems or even what those problems were. I was given a list of about four things I could check, and I should add that the average person using a hosting service wouldn’t really know how to do any of them. First, I was told to check my access logs to see if I was being attacked. I could then blacklist that IP. I was also told to check if I was getting bot spam. To do this, I was told to take a look at my databases and see if any of them had over 100K rows. I was told I could try getting a CDN. I could also check error logs and slow queries on my database. I was offered tech support to “optimize” my website for $300. I declined and decided I’d try to see what I could do. The only assistance I would be given for free was links to Bluehost’s knowledge base articles. I got through the first two and could find nothing wrong—and in fact, I’m inclined to believe there was nothing wrong—so I stopped checking and asked my host via chat if they could reactivate my site so I could check on some things. I was told they were working on the server on which my site was hosted, so they couldn’t do anything until the work was finished. Check back in a couple of hours, tech support said.

I have been with Bluehost for around ten years. I have not had any real issues with them until the last couple of years. Recently, my entire site went down twice and I had to restore it from a backup. How does that even happen? Or worse, how does it happen and the host cannot tell you why or how it happened? Twice in about a week. They have never been very helpful when I contact their tech support. I basically just have to be able to figure out how to fix things on my own. I have found this to be the case in almost all of my dealings with them. However, I stayed because changing hosts is painful, and the last time I did it was so long ago, I wasn’t sure if I could figure out everything I needed to do and get everything set up correctly. I was willing to put up with what I saw as lackluster support in exchange for making things easier in the short run. I should have bolted the first time my site went down several months ago. I am beyond frustrated that keeping me as a customer had so little value for Bluehost. I took my frustration to Twitter.

This was their reply.

That is not customer service. I signed up with a new host the same day. I am still in the process of moving everything I need to move. My sites are not yet resolved to my new host completely, so some people are likely seeing my old site still, which has a warning about my site being deactivated. It took me over 24 hours just to download all the files from my host, and it took me another 8 or so to upload them to my new one. I was finally able to see one of my sites last night, and I was able to see this one today.

In the next few days, after I am sure my new sites are all up and running they way they should be, I will be closing my account with Bluehost entirely. They are currently running promos for really cheap hosting. It is too bad they are working so hard to get new customers and not attempting to retain the ones they already have. I walked away from this experience with the distinct impression that Bluehost didn’t care a thing about me or my sites. Or at least the money I have been paying them to host my site and register my domains. I couldn’t believe the lack of support I was given, which was abysmal even by the standards I’m used to from Bluehost. And as you can see from the tweet above, I am not their only customer whose site was deactivated this week. A quick search of Twitter, and I was able to find plenty of disgruntled customers. Many of them had been long-time customers like me. Despite many issues encountered by WordPress users, WordPress continues to endorse Bluehost as a good host for WordPress (a quick Google search is all you need, but I found this article articulated the problem well).

All I really have left to do at this point is figure out whether or not to get my emails off Bluehost. I never really liked the amount of spam I was getting on those accounts, so I am considering just giving them up. It looks nice to have email go to your domain, but it also complicates things to have a bunch of email addresses. I’m tempted to just call it day and route those emails to my Gmail account. Here is hoping I have much better luck with my new host. I’m already finding their knowledge base articles more helpful. I was actually able to get everything up and running again without contacting tech support. Once I see that my domain name servers are propagated (meaning when I search to see who hosts my domain, it’s my new host’s servers that show up instead of Bluehost’s), I will completely deactivate my account with Bluehost. I will warn anyone who asks me about starting a blog away from them. Honestly, the easiest thing to do is get a blog hosted by Blogger,, Weebly, or similar. I have been using self-hosted WordPress for so long and have so much invested in my sites at this point that I don’t think I can just ditch them and use a hosted blog. If you want a self-hosted blog, my personal recommendation is to steer clear of Bluehost—for engaging in activity that in my sole and absolute discretion, disrupts, interferes with, or is harmful to (or threatens to disrupt, interfere with, or be harmful to) running a website. You don’t have to take my word for it, though.

UPDATE 8/16/2016: I have opted to keep my email addresses, and I have them set up on my new host, but I did not retain emails, so if you contacted me recently and didn’t hear back (and you weren’t asking me if you could do a guest blog or place an ad, because I have made it very clear that I ignore those emails), you can try to contact me again. Also, I canceled my account at Bluehost, and things should be up and running properly with my new host.

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Intense Debate Comments

Hi folks,

Just a quick blog post to let you know I am switching off Intense Debate for comments. I have grown frustrated by two issues:

  1. Even frequent commenters are thrown into moderation every single time because they don’t login using one of the accounts associated with Intense Debate (Intense Debate itself, Twitter, Facebook, WordPress).
  2. Despite the fact that WordPress itself has a feature that allows me to close comments on old posts, Intense Debate bypasses this setting and allows comments on old posts. Comments on old posts are always of two kinds 1) spam, 2) disagreeable trolls who haven’t realized the conversation ended seven years ago. And the only person who sees those two types of comments is me, anyway, as everyone else has moved on.

I’m just tired of dealing with it. I am going to try something different, and I wanted to let you know just in case comments are wonky. I may need some time to straighten out the comments. Thanks for your patience.

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Using Evernote for Lesson Plans

evernote photo
Photo by joe.ross

Before I get into the meat of this post, I wanted to mention that I’ve been having some issues with pages taking a long time to load and general slowness on this site. I put in a help ticket with my web host after trying to fix it myself without much success. The site appears to be running more smoothly, so even though I haven’t heard from my host, I am wondering if they took a look already and figured out the problem. At any rate, please be patient with me if you are having issues.

This year, I am trying a new experiment using Evernote for my lesson plans. I love Evernote. I use it quite extensively for personal note-taking, such as keeping my soap-making journal, planning trips, and the random article or PDF I want to save. I have Evernote Premium, which allows me to annotate and take notes on PDF’s as well. I also have offline access to notes, higher monthly uploads, and some other additional features, but I mainly wanted to be able to annotate PDF’s without using a separate app.

As much as I use Evernote, I wasn’t really using it for lesson planning at all. When I inquired on Twitter, I discovered Jim Burke would not be publishing a 2014-2015 Teacher’s Daybook. I had decided to go back to the Daybook after trying an electronic planbook that was brilliant, but just wasn’t working for me (not sure why). I was bummed about the Daybook, and though Jim publishes the templates online, I just didn’t want to print them out. Something told me that I wouldn’t stick with it. I happened on Nick Provenzano’s post about using Evernote to plan a while back, and I decided to give it a shot, particularly since I already liked Evernote.

First, I created Evernote notebooks for each of my classes. This process is fairly straightforward, so I’ll skip the explanation, but if you have trouble with it, feel free to ask for clarification in the comments.

I created a calendar template next. The dates can easily be changed each month. In order to create new calendar notes, I use the following process:

  • Navigate to the appropriate notebook (in my case, World Literature II or American Studies in Literature—whatever you called your class).
  • Add a new note and name it with the correct month and year.
  • Go to my calendar template note and copy the text in the note (the calendar grid).
  • Paste the text into my new note.

After I created the calendar template, I created a daily lesson plan template. This template suits my needs. It includes my school’s Portrait of a Learner (objectives), which are not as extensive or complicated as CCSS. This template forces me to think about a good hook or interest grabber at the start and how to tie everything back together at the end of the lesson with a good wrap up. In between, I can list all the parts of the lesson with detail. I can think about which areas of Bloom’s Taxonomy the lesson addresses and be thoughtful about the kind of homework (if any) required. My favorite part, however, is a reflection. After the lesson, at the end of the day usually, I take about five minutes and write short reflections on the lessons.

I can link the daily lessons on the calendar template by right-clicking on the note and selecting “Copy Note Link” in Evernote. Here is Evernote’s Knowledge Base article on this topic in case you need help. Then I paste that note link on the appropriate date in the calendar, and I have a nice, linked up monthly planner that organizes my daily plans.

In addition, I use tags, such as unit titles, course titles, book or other literary work titles, authors, and types of lesson (e. g. writing workshop) to further link my notes. I can then search my notebooks using any of these tags and see all my lessons from a given unit, course, etc.

Evernote notebooks can be shared, so using Evernote is a solution for teachers who are planning together as well.

So far, I am liking it quite a bit. I’ll keep you posted on the experiment.

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Email Subscriptions and Theme Changes

Subscribe by EmailThose of you who receive post updates in your inbox will want to take note of some changes. Up until now, I have used Feedblitz to manage email subscriptions. However, in order to streamline services and make things a little easier for me, I am discontinuing support for old Feedblitz subscriptions as of one week from today, July 8. At that time, I will delete my Feedblitz account. If you would like to continue to receive posts in your inbox, please visit the blog at (assuming you are receiving this post in your email), and look for “Subscribe to Blog Via Email” in the sidebar on the right of the page. Enter your email address and click the “Subscribe” button. You might receive posts twice during the one-week grace period until I delete Feedblitz. I apologize for the inconvenience, but I have been dissatisfied with the Feedblitz option for some time, and it is my hope that if you want to continue to receive posts via email, this option will work for you.

In other blog-related news, after many years, I have changed the blog theme. If you are interested, I have installed the Twenty Eleven theme from WordPress. I like the font and the clean look. I have streamlined some of the sidebar content. You can also now find my links, categories, and a tag cloud on the bottom of the page.  My links area used to be on the upper left hand side under the disclaimer. I link to several social networks and other sites, such as the English Companion Ning, and some of my website content that for whatever reason I didn’t want in the navigation bar on the top.

Let me know if you are having any trouble finding things. I hope you will find the site just as easy (perhaps easier) to navigate.

Image via derrickkwa

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Requests for Materials

I have shared a lot of resources on this blog. I used to use a plugin called Apture (until it was discontinued) to manage some of the different kinds of links. For some reason, all the documents I uploaded while using that plugin were pushed to Scribd and set to private. I don’t actually have access to those documents in order to set them to public. I occasionally receive requests from people to allow access to these documents, but I can’t. I actually don’t have access to them. I do not have an account with Scribd. The documents were not uploaded to any account that I have access to.

The disappointment that I feel over the way Apture handled the discontinuation of the plugin, which caused me quite a few problems with this site and others I run, is the subject of another blog post, but suffice it to say I think they care very little about their customers, and their latest announcement that they have been acquired by Google are discontinuing all their products and services altogether on fairly short notice should surprise no one who has used their plugins. The links I created when I used this plugin still work, but the documents are, unfortunately, lost. I imagine I have them somewhere, but recreating the links and uploading the documents in all those posts would be a rather large task.

Sometimes people email requests for these documents and for others, and I have forgotten to respond. It is not that I am a terrible person who does not like to share. I do share. Quite a lot. It’s that I sometimes get terribly busy, and if I remember to send the documents, I might not be sending them in time for you to use them for your classes. That doesn’t do anyone any good.

If I do not respond to your request, that is probably why. I like to be helpful, but, if I can be honest, very few people offer any sort of a donation or exchange (such as lessons or handouts I might like). I don’t like the idea of charging for the content I provide here, and I haven’t been too successful in the past at attempting to monetize it when I have tried to go that route. People seem to feel resentful that I have asked for what I thought was fair compensation for the work I have done. I probably invited that resentment by offering so much stuff for free in the first place. Keeping up with all the requests I receive for resources has just become too difficult.

In short, sharing materials here on the blog is all the time I am able to donate towards sharing resources. If it isn’t here, I’m sorry, but I can’t provide it. I cannot email you copies of documents or create custom documents for you. I do not want to disappoint anyone, but I actually do receive quite a lot of these kinds of requests. It might seem to the requester that it’s a simple favor to ask, but it takes time to respond to each request and to find the materials in the first place, as I have materials on my computer a work, at home, and on various flash drives. When I haven’t used a particular resource in a long time, even if it is new and or relevant to readers here, it may be difficult for me to find.

Please feel free to use and adapt (with credit, please) the materials I share on this site, but I regret to say that I am unable to respond to future requests asking me to email you materials.

If you are looking for the materials I shared on this post about the hero’s journey, please be aware I plan to share them at NCTE when I present, and I may be able to post them here again when I have the opportunity.

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Apture Poll

Some visitors, particularly if you read the site and not the RSS feed, may have noticed that this site is enhanced with Apture. Apture is really beneficial to me because it enables me to create links to information really easily. I’m not sure if it’s of any benefit to users or not, other than you can view information in small popup windows before deciding whether you want to leave the site to go look at it.

Apture has released a new function that I have been dithering about adding called the Apture Site Bar. Here you can read some more about it. If you visit the site and scroll down, you can see an Apture Site Bar in action. Please go check it out and come back.


How would you feel about visiting this site with an Apture Site Bar at the top?

  • I think it would add some functionality to the site. Go for it. (86%)
  • It wouldn't bother me, but I don't think it adds any functionality. (14%)
  • I wouldn't like it. It's distracting. (0%)

Total Votes: 7

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Update: Apture tweeted this link to its YouTube channel so you can learn more about Apture.

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A Quick Note About Comments

I closed comments on this blog for posts older than 365 days. My reasons for doing so are that usually, regular readers and commenters (yes, I spelled that correctly, just in case you were wondering) have often moved on by the time a latecomer discovers the post, and I wind up being the only one who responds to the comment. Of course, it’s not necessarily a bad thing that I alone respond, but it’s not the kind of conversation I’ve become accustomed to. I decided that closing comments could be a kind of signal that we’ve all moved on and we’re not talking about that post anymore.

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New Features

When I remembered today that WordPress 2.7 enabled threaded comments, I decided to try to implement them here on this blog. While enabled threaded comments within the content management system involved only checking a box, I realized my theme didn’t support threaded comments. I tried to follow instructions for modifying my theme that I found online, but I messed it up somehow, so I checked out Cutline’s Web site (that’s the name of the theme I use), and lo and behold, they had created an updated version with support for threaded comments. I updated the theme. Now you can reply to commenters as well as to me, and it will be perhaps a little more clear who is being addressed in comments.

I also added some sharing and saving capability. On the bottom of each post, you’ll see a new button with a few familiar icons: the share icon (or at least it’s used by Shareaholic, the Firefox add-on), Delicious, and Facebook. If you mouse over that button, you’ll discover lots of ways to share and/or save the post. Just about every kind of social bookmarking, networking, and note-taking service is included. You can also e-mail the post or bookmark it directly in your browser. I removed the Feedburner FeedFlare, which enabled sharing by e-mail, Delicious, and Facebook, from each post. Essentially the new sharing/saving feature does much more in the way of allowing for users to save and share content that I decided it wasn’t needed. If you care, the plugin I used to create this button is called Add to Any.

The new theme handles a few tiny details differently. For instance, there is now a frame around images inside posts. I kind of like it, so I left it there. If there is some element of functionality you miss that I’ve forgotten to implement again after the upgrade, please let me know.

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If it takes a while for your comment to appear, please be patient.  I am not receiving e-mails when I receive comments that are in moderation, and I haven’t seen them until I have logged in.  If your comment doesn’t appear after a few days, and you know you’ve followed the comment policies, you can contact me and see if I know what happened — most likely I missed it somehow.  I apologize for the inconvenience.

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